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A group of consultants for the Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks presented several possibilities Tuesday for connecting and expanding its parks system.

City residents attending the first public meeting on the non-profit private group's plans for enhancing the park system that Frederick Law Olmsted designed more than 100 years ago raised concerns about preserving existing parks.

"I don't want my children sitting here 20 years from now saying I want to restore the neighborhood I grew up in," Helene Raichilson of Bird Avenue said. She pointed to city plans to turn the grassy area outside the Buffalo Psychiatric Center on Forest Avenue into paved parking for nearby Elmwood Avenue businesses.

Mrs. Raichilson said a lot of people had bought houses in that area "because of the neighborhood setting. A parking lot would really trash it up."

Mary Simpson, who lives in the Days Park area said neighbors taking an active interest in the small park have made a difference.

"Our crime rate is now the lowest in Allentown, from being one of the highest 10 years ago," she said. "We even have the kids in our neighborhood cleaning up the park. To them, it's their park."

Peter Trowbridge of the consultants, Trowbridge Associates, presented the results of six months of work to about 20 people in the auditorium of the City Campus of Erie Community College.

The consultants include Francis R. Kowsky, Olmsted scholar and professor of art history at Buffalo State College, and Bruce Kelly, a landscape architect who wrote the South Park Arboretum restoration master plan.

The consultants built on Olmsted's original idea of a connected park system throughout the city. The consultants also envision using vacant and waterfront land, abandoned railroad corridors, as well as replanting trees and re-establishing center malls along some of Buffalo's wider streets, such as Broadway, Fillmore Avenue and Niagara Street.

"Buffalo arguably has the oldest and finest park system in the whole country," said Kelly, noting that the city was the first to build a citywide park system at the turn of the century.

"Now it is Buffalo that has the opportunity to lead the way into the future," he added.

South District Council Member Brian Higgins noted that the Council, in completing the city's waterfront revitalization plan, designated 90 acres for green space. The Council also has recommended that the golf course in South Park be relocated so South Park can be restored to Olmsted's original design. "We will work with you to achieve your goals," Higgins said.

Gretchen Toles, chairwoman of the Olmsted group, said plans presented at the meeting are not final and consultants now will be working on specific projects.

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